‘The Heat’ is aggressively unfunny

July 7, 2013
Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy star in "The Heat."

The Heat makes a bold step for women in movies, proving that they can be just as profane in listless, lifeless, generic action comedies as their male counterparts.

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Director Paul Feig is coasting on his success with “Bridesmaids,” but it is crystal clear that the real talent of that picture came from the hands of its star and writer Kristen Wiig. I was not the biggest “Bridesmaids” fan, as I found it far too meandering and thought it could have worked better as a 90-minute comedy. Now along comes “The Heat” to make “Bridesmaids” look like “Annie Hall” by comparison.

Aside from plopping in two female leads (Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy), “The Heat” strays little from the buddy-cop formula of two mismatched characters reluctantly paired who ultimately learn about one another in the process.

Bullock plays uptight FBI agent Sarah Ashburn, hated by colleagues for her know-it-all nature, who sees an opening in the agency’s higher ranks and is on a tenacious quest to nab it. Of course, she must first contend with sociopathic Boston cop Shannon Mullins (played by McCarthy), whose rogue style and compulsively brash demeanor make her equally as detested by her counterparts in her own squad.

They must team up to stop some sort of criminal activity or something like that. I honestly stopped really caring after about 30 minutes into the picture, at about the 375th time I heard McCarthy drop the F-bomb as if it the word itself was supposed to be the punchline. Watch just about any substandard police procedural on TV or in the movies and you can pretty much see where it’s all heading.

There is a screenwriter credited, Katie Dippold, but I’ll be damned if it seems she made much of a contribution, as scene after scene just seemed to toss in some quasi-amusing actors and let them riff and improvise until Feig’s camera battery died. And while Bullock may possess marginal skills, improvisational comedienne ain’t one of them. Plus, it’s really hard to buy her as a smug self-aggrandizer. It’s a character that calls more for someone like Reese Witherspoon’s Tracy Flick from “Election.”

But at least Bullock is tolerable, which cannot be said for McCarthy. Sure, she’s capable of being amusing, which she has proven in several instances. Here, she’s supposed to be some sort of force of nature, but she comes off as just an obnoxious psychopath with not a redeeming bullet in her chamber. Every person in her field of vision is immediately assaulted with a barrage of profanity-laced barbs and/or threats of physical harm in some way, shape or form. I was no fan of “Identity Thief,” her film from earlier this year, but she at least demonstrated a range and vulnerability in it. Here, she’s just an automatic weapon of venom and bile, firing wildly at all in her path.

And just like “Thief,” I have no doubt “The Heat” will lure in comedy-starved patrons and women who will mistakenly view this as an empowerment film. If we really want to give Bullock and McCarthy power, try putting them in a film that plays to their strengths as performers and providing them with a story that doesn’t feel like it could have been written on a cocktail napkin.

It is not merely lacking laughs, it’s aggressively unfunny. I was anxious to get out of its comedic kitchen, as I could not stand “The Heat.”

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